Monday, 19 July 2010

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

The previous book in this series had me rummaging around in my cupboards to find my old stamp books, since the plot revolved around stamps and their collectors and admirers. Said rummaging also involved turning over some of my childhood memories connected to my own involvement in the hobby. See review of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. This time the old traditional puppet show takes centre stage instead and unfortunately I'm not a closet puppet collector with vintage Punch & Judy puppets lurking in my attic so I'll just have to review the book instead. Ok so maybe I had a Sooty hand puppet way back when but he was hardly the star of my toy cupboard. The star of this book though is the formidable Flavia De Luce. At nearly 12 years old she might not be in Sherlock Holmes' league but she's more than a match for the local country constabulary. I found myself imagining Flavia as a Wednesday Addams who has grown out of her spiders and turned her hand to chemistry and crime fighting. Many of the characters introduced in the first book are here again, including all the extraordinary De Luce's plus staff and a whole bunch more to fatten up the suspect list. The story starts quite slow as the stage is meticulously dressed with clues and red herrings and distractions of the Flavia kind but when the first body hits the ground things start moving. Flavia's detective work probably compares more with Columbo than Holmes, as she uses her youth to tease information from everyone she meets. Between the sleuthing there's always time for a few interludes of De Luce family disharmony. Alan Bradley's writing manages the difficult task of keeping things fun without sending his creations up. As a wise man once said, "That's the way to do it!!!"

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